By Scott Prater
First Lt. Mark Long, 4th Space Operations Squadron, learned the value of hard work at an early age. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Indiana, building, fixing and maintaining structures, vehicles and equipment. So when he searched for the right volunteer opportunity, Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity seemed like the perfect fit.
When he arrived at Schriever in 2009, he was surprised to learn that the base had no organized Habitat For Humanity volunteer crew. He set about rectifying that situation, and now, coordinates up to 40 volunteers each month.
“I actually have a few selfish reasons for not only volunteering with Habitat For Humanity, but for helping draw others to do this important work,” he said. “I gain valuable experience at every job site, which I hope will serve me well when I someday build my own home. I’m fascinated by the magic of making something where there was nothing and I want to create a distinct leadership identity for myself.”
As a nonprofit organization, PPHFH uses volunteer labor and donations of money and materials to build and rehabilitate homes for low-income families. Since 1986, the Colorado Springs community has built or rehabilitated 118 homes through the PPHFH program.
Capt. Aaron Doyle, 4 SOPS, is one of the Schriever members Long recruited to volunteer with PPHFH. Coincidently, Doyle already had Habitat for Humanity experience. He volunteered for the organization several years ago while stationed at Eglin AFB, Fla. Since joining the Schriever volunteer group he has also helped out at the PPHFH ReStore.
At the ReStore, Doyle unloads trucks and helps organize the store so customers have a better shopping experience. He explained that the ReStore is similar to a thrift store, only it’s for home construction materials. If someone is say, remodeling their kitchen, they might be able to find a gently used sink there.
“Volunteering at the ReStore is interesting because you have an opportunity to exercise your organization skills,” he said. “When materials come in, you stack items around and try to make the best use of the space. It’s sort of like playing a three-dimensional Tetris game.”
Doyle serves double duty for HFH. He also volunteers on home construction sites along with his fellow 4 SOPS and 50th Operations Group members. Together, they can do just about any task assigned to them.
“One aspect that’s nice about HFH is they teach you construction skills as you work,” Doyle said. “Usually there’s one guy who is really skilled and he gives everyone sub tasks. Then, before the work is fully implemented, he’ll do a spot check to make sure everything is constructed the way it should be.”
Sometimes, it’s Long or Doyle who fills the role of teacher and mentor.
“I think we provide community service on a variety of levels,” Doyle said. “On our last construction site, we were able to teach some of the new guys about proper construction methods that they’ll be able to use not only in future volunteer service, but also to improve their own homes. I really enjoy the teaching aspect of volunteering when the opportunities arise.”
On a recent construction project, Long mentored other volunteers as a team attached roof trusses on a home, but he soaked up knowledge and skills on another part of the site.
Lindsey Desmarais Nubern, PPHFH volunteer manager said volunteers complete 90 percent of the work on each home the organization has built in El Paso County. The projects’ volunteers work includes building the foundation and floors, framing the walls, installing the insulation, doors, windows and siding, painting and completing the roof.
“The money we save in construction wages keeps the cost of the homes low for families and goes directly to supporting building of more homes for local families,” Nubern said. “Air Force members have volunteered on 76 different days to build on PPHFH construction sites across the county and we could not accomplish our mission without their help. They are making the dream of home ownership come true for many local families.”
To learn more information about volunteering as part of Schriever’s PPHFH team contact Long at 567-4457.